Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz (tr. Rachel Ward) #BookReview #BlogTour

The second book in the critically acclaimed Chastity Riley series 

On a warm September morning, a man is found unconscious and tortured in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of Germany’s biggest magazines. He’s soon identified as a manager of the company. Three days later, another manager appears in a similar way. 
The magazine staff were facing significant layoffs, so sympathy for the two men is in short supply. Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect, to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the hothouse world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred...monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves. 

I am thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Beton Rouge today alongside the lovely Joy Kluver, so be sure to check out her blog too. Huge thanks to Simone Buchholz, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

Beton Rouge sees the welcome return of Chastity Riley following her introduction to English-speaking readers in Blue Night last year. This time the public prosecutor is paired with a new colleague, Ivo Stepanovic from the Serious Crimes Office as they investigate why first the head of HR and then the publishing director of a leading magazine company are left in cages outside the magazine's offices, naked and with extensive injuries indicating they've been brutally tortured.
Chastity is rapidly becoming one of my favourite fictional characters and the relationship she develops with Stepanovic during the course of the novel bears all the hallmarks of a sublime film noir partnership. Their wisecracking repartee and sizzling chemistry mean the scenes between them fizzle with irresistible energy and yet both have a darker, more melancholy side which threatens to overwhelm them at times. Their hard drinking and chain smoking as they frequent the less than salubrious bars in the underbelly of Hamburg may go against all health guidelines but it gives the book an air of gritty authenticity. It's actually their trip to Bavaria which is the highlight of the book for me though, with their deadpan dialogue a sheer delight as they visit a village which describes itself as the 'Franconian Tuscany' although they aren't given a warm welcome,
'This is the Bavaria I know' says Stepanovic, 'An undiluted mixture of suspicion and aggression.'
The Blue Night bar and Chastity's hotchpotch group of friends feature again in Beton Rouge albeit in lesser roles but it looks as if change lies ahead for them and it seems that their messy lives may not be able to withstand some of the shocking revelations which occur during the course of the book.
The investigation into the caged men is darkly fascinating with each new disclosure driving the fast-moving plot forward but in truth, it's as a character study that Beton Rouge really shines for me. The introduction of Stepanovic is inspired as his own complicated issues allow Chastity to reflect further on her own demons and with the narrative often revealing her inner monologue, readers learn not only of her current torment but also more about her childhood. Her memories of her father's emotional decline are incredibly poignant with the distance that developed between them resulting in overwhelming loneliness which is so intense it's almost palpable.
Although Beton Rouge is a crime thriller which for once doesn't have murder as the central case being investigated, it is still a sharply insightful exposé of a shadowy world most of us are only dimly aware of. The humour is acerbically black and it's a pessimistic reflection of society but there's a poetry to the writing too making Beton Rouge such a joy to read from start to finish. Credit must be given here to Rachel Ward's translation which for ensuring that none of the nuances of Simone Buchholz's original prose are lost. A word too for the chapter headings which are a consistent delight.
Beton Rouge is an outstanding thriller which evokes all the stylishly cool spirit of traditional hard-boiled Noir yet is a fresh and compelling addition to the current crime fiction scene. Highly recommended.

Beton Rouge is published by Orenda Books; purchasing links can be found here.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award, and second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize, for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son. 

About the Translator

Rachel Ward translates from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study Modern Languages at the University of East Anglia. She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saarbrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002. Her published translations include the Nea Fox series of crime novels by Amelia Ellis, and books for young people such as Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel.


  1. Massive thanks for your continued #TeamOrenda support Karen xx


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